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School Construction 2004

August 12, 2004

Research fuels UW space needs

  • University projects could add 1 million square feet
    University of Washington

    Research and Technology Building
    Image courtesy of CollinsWoerman
    The University of Washington’s Research and Technology Building is slated to break ground in the fall. The $31.5 million project will feature research laboratories for nanotechnology, photonics, biometrics, neurology and other disciplines. An underground parking garage will hold 120 to 150 vehicles.

    The University of Washington program for capital expenditures is balanced between renewal of existing structures and planning for growth in research and enrollment.

    The UW Seattle campus, like many campuses around the country, faces a significant challenge in maintaining its existing facilities. Many of the buildings that play a crucial role in education are old.

    Indeed, at least 60 percent of the state-owned Seattle campus buildings were built before 1960. The normal life expectancy of the major building systems is around 30 years, after which basic infrastructure — including ventilation, electrical systems and plumbing — is likely to need replacement. Moreover, buildings constructed more than 40 years ago were not built with modern computers in mind.

    The UW has embarked on a program to seek funding from the state for restoring 16 critical buildings during the next 10 to 15 years. Restoration the core of the Seattle campus will be focused on those buildings that provide classrooms, faculty offices and some laboratories.

    As the university moves forward with the phased restoration strategy, growth can be accommodated by new construction at the Bothell, Tacoma and Seattle campuses.

    The University of Washington will end this fiscal year with nearly $1 billion in sponsored research, more than any other public university in the country. The research enterprise continues to grow, and its needs for space will continue to grow.

    3 major projects

    UW projects at a glance
    The University of Washington has three major R&D-themed capital projects under way:

    Research and Technology Building
    Cost: $31.5 million
    Size: 150,000 square feet
    Location: Seventh Avenue Northeast and Northeast Pacific Street
    Notes: M.A. Mortenson Co. breaks ground in the fall on the project, designed by CollinsWoerman under a DBOM contract. Completion is expected by the end of 2005.

    Bioengineering and Genome Sciences Building
    Cost: $150 million
    Size: 230,000 square feet
    Location: 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Pacific Street
    Notes: The two-building project is slated for substantial completion in the fall of 2005. Hoffman Construction is the general contractor/construction manager.

    UW Medicine Lake Union
    Cost: $50 million
    Size: 115,000 square feet
    Location: 815 Mercer St.
    Notes: This new medical research hub will occupy the former Washington Natural Gas building. UW Medicine is scheduled to occupy the building in December. Turner Construction is the general contractor. The university has options to lease from Vulcan another 700,000 square feet.

    Currently, three major projects are under way in Seattle: a research and technology building on the west edge of the campus, a bioengineering and genome sciences building in south campus, and a new facility for medical research in South Lake Union (which will be leased from Vulcan). Together, these facilities will add nearly 1 million square feet of space for research.

    The university expects its research activity to continue to grow in the coming years, although perhaps not at the pace it enjoyed over the past decade. Growth of research facilities is likely to occur both on land owned by the UW and property in the South Lake Union area.

    The UW also is interested in being a good neighbor and a partner in the revitalization of the University District. While the university is unlikely to initiate major projects that would result in significant changes in land use, it is interested in participating in projects that can improve the business climate and overall working environment of the neighborhood.

    Although the future success of the university's ability to receive research funding is impossible to predict, the UW, given its track record in competing for research funding, expects to have one or two construction projects in various stages of development at any given time over the next decade.

    Development will occur in a phased way, when there is sufficient demonstrated need to assure that additional capacity is necessary.

    Varied funding sources

    While the state realizes significant benefits from the UW's research enterprise, both direct and indirect, funding for future buildings that meet the UW's research needs is unlikely to come from the state.

    Indeed, the three current projects under way are not state funded. Based upon recent trends, the UW expects future research buildings to be funded primarily by revenues from research and from private gifts.

    Expanding enrollment

    The university recognizes that access to higher education needs to expand. For the UW, enrollment growth is expected primarily at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma. The university will seek funds from the state to expand those institutions, which together currently serve about 3,600 students. An optimal size for these campuses is about 5,000 students each.

    About 20 percent of the UW's current biennial capital budget is targeted at paving the way for increased access. This includes land acquisition for future development in Tacoma, and planning for better freeway access at Bothell.

    A contract pioneer

    The University of Washington has been a pioneer in utilizing the new options granted under state law for managing capital projects. These innovations promise to reduce the total cost of building operations over their useful life.

    That new research and technology building on the west edge of the Seattle campus is proceeding as a design-build-operate-maintain — or DBOM — project. It is the first public academic laboratory in the state to be bid as a DBOM project and the university believes it will become a showcase for how to do this successfully.

    This approach has been received enthusiastically by the contracting community, with more than 50 inquiries received during the request for proposals process.

    DBOM projects represents a fundamental change in culture and philosophy concerning construction at the university, and holds the promise of delivering an excellent research facility for costs that are predictable.

    The UW also constructs buildings that are sustainable, which means meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The university has an impressive track record for resource conservation and for the success of its recycling programs.

    Colleen Pike is the acting director of the University of Washington capital and space planning office. Harlan Patterson is vice provost for planning and budgeting.

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